It has been a while since we last caught up with Shofela Coker. Tell us about the Coker CoOp.
Coker CoOp is simply my brother, my sister and I, pulling our professional and personal resources together to create ideas we’ve dreamed of since childhood with the aim of sharing that vision with the rest of the world.
“Mummy’s an artist, Daddy’s an artist… we were destined to be poor, and thus, needy.” You come from a creative family, what inspired you to work together? How has this experience affected your creative work?
My family has always been close-knit, so we share very similar tastes, influences and a general outlook on the world. We were encouraged at a young age to explore avenues of creativity that many others wouldn’t have been able to. My parents supported all of us in our decision to go to art school, for instance. Convinced? haha.
There is nothing more fulfilling than a shared passionate vision, and because we all bring something slightly different to the table, we complement each other well. Funlola creates real world sculptures, figurines and jewelry, Shobo is a writer and illustrator with experience with online marketing, and I’m a 2d and 3d digital artist (although I have been known to draw with a pencil and pen on occasion).
These varied skillsets allow us to approach problems with a certain confidence knowing that most blind spots are covered. Most importantly, our approach is to ensure that the projects we develop feel like ‘play’ which I believe is the source of honest expression.
You recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for your project OutCasts of Jupiter. Tell us a little bit about your project.
As Shobo is the writer, he described it best:
‘Outcasts of Jupiter is a new, scifi adventure comic written by Shobo Coker and drawn by Shofela Coker. Our story takes place on Earth, in 3125, in the fictional City of Seven Faces, a visually and culturally rich cliffside city in our version of Morocco. The exotic City of Seven Faces is a mysterious place, full of strange secrets, slavers, gangsters and wanted criminals.’
The Kickstarter campaign is live now and it is aimed at developing awareness and garnering funds for the production of the project. We couldn’t be more thrilled with the response to the project so far.
What is the inspiration behind your incredible comic? What is the inspiration behind some of the characters? How has Africa inspired your work?
It began with the seminal character Jupiter Jonah, whom you may have seen on this site before hand. My brother, Shobo wrote a story treatment for this space faring African, displaced by time, adventuring across the galaxy. He later shared it with me and we began developing it together. We quickly realized that the scale of the project (a 150 page graphic novel), was too large in scope to accomplish due to the time commitment required, and the fact we both had demanding day jobs.
Outcasts of Jupiter is a story set in the same universe with some of the same characters that will eventually appear in the Jupiter Jonah series. We all love travel and experiencing cultures outside of our own. We are inspired by a large spectrum of art work. Everything from Tintin, to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars, Miyazaki films, even Ozu.
The first book takes place in Africa, in a fictional city in Morocco, so it is visually influenced by the continent. Living in an African city, Lagos, for most of our lives we were very keen on the locations possessing the idiosyncrasies and hectic energy a modern African city does.
The book features a multi-ethnic, multi-species cast, but of course Africans do feature prominently. Take Denarii for instance, a terse, fiery eyed man from the Afar region of Ethiopia.
What has been your creative process working on this comic? How do you collaborate with each other?
For Outcasts of Jupiter, I developed a short 10 page storyboard treatment, last year. I showed it to Shobo and he wrote an extended 24 page script.
We got a little tired of working on projects together that would ultimately never come to fruition because the publishing platform was either underdeveloped, or non-existent. That’s where Kickstarter came in. It presented an opportunity to really take charge of the destiny of our work.
We critiqued the script and storyboards together and figured out how to best visually represent the themes, and story structure in the book. During the drawing process Shobo is my first and best critic, making sure that the story comes across coherently, making sure I maintain a standard of quality we can all be proud of. And finally, if we can entertain Funlola with a story or make her laugh, we know it’s golden.
Do you believe there is a future for African comics? What do you think this future look like in the digital sphere?
There is this little-known writer (Chimanda Adichie 😉 that warned us a few years ago of the danger of a single story and I think that speech seeped into the world’s collective unconscious a bit.
I’ve believed in a future for African comics and storytelling for as long as I can remember. There are so many creators out there, creators I grew up with in Lagos and ones that I’ve encountered on my travels and through social media. There already have been some notable entries in African comics such as Bayo Akinsiku of Judge Dredd fame. Comics provide an avenue to tell smaller scale, more direct stories that are more affordable to produce, and even more so with digital publishing.
Comic creators worldwide face unique challenges. The challenges might seem especially insurmountable for an African comic book creator, especially one’s working on the continent (a lack of specialized education and infrastructure in the field), but new digital media will eventually ensure that those voices get heard. It’s only a matter of time and actively developing the economy and social mindset toward this relatively young form of media.
Of course, this would seem like the most obvious area for development and success for African comics, considering the challenges physical books present. Digital publishing platforms
How can we show support?
We are running a live Kickstarter campaign right now, as I mentioned earlier. You can check it out if you like and if you are so inclined, please back it, or share it with friends and family. Like, tweet, upvote and share the project as much as you can!